Skip to main content

Full text of "The Relation Between Sociology and Other Sciences"

See other formats


Early Journal Content on JSTOR, Free to Anyone in the World 

This article is one of nearly 500,000 scholarly works digitized and made freely available to everyone in 
the world by JSTOR. 

Known as the Early Journal Content, this set of works include research articles, news, letters, and other 
writings published in more than 200 of the oldest leading academic journals. The works date from the 
mid-seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries. 

We encourage people to read and share the Early Journal Content openly and to tell others that this 
resource exists. People may post this content online or redistribute in any way for non-commercial 

Read more about Early Journal Content at 
journal-content . 

JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary source objects. JSTOR helps people 
discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content through a powerful research and teaching 
platform, and preserves this content for future generations. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit 
organization that also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico. For more information about JSTOR, please 



The University of Chicago 

For "substance of doctrine" I agree with everything that Pro- 
fessor Vincent said last week about the varieties of sociology. I 
join heartily in his closing remarks to the effect that if you will 
take hold of any social problem; and follow it back, and out, and 
up, as far as investigation will go, you will have the reality of 
sociology whether you have a name for it, and a definition of it, 
or not. 

At the same time, while this inclusive aspect of sociology 
should be emphasized, while it should be made plain that there 
is room for many types of workers, I find that I am getting to be 
somewhat strenuous for a single, rather rigid test to separate the 
sociological sheep from the non-sociological goats. 

A thousand men may be directly employed in putting up a 
Chicago building. Every one of them may put into' the building 
something that is utterly indispensable. In a way we may say 
that every one of them is an architect. In strict literalness', only 
one architect may have had anything to do with the work. We 
might apply the word "architecture" in a loose sense to the 
whole motley collection of processes, from the contracting and 
excavating for the foundation, through the masonry, and frame 
construction, and carpentering, and plumbing, and electric wiring, 
and steam-fitting, and elevator-installing, and roofing, and 
floor-laying, and plastering, and painting, and glazing, and decor- 
ating. Nevertheless', only one man, among all that com- 
bined their labor to produce the building, would be admitted 
to the. society of architects. His peers know perfectly well why 
they class themselves with him and separate themselves from all 
the rest of his co-laborers. It is not because he could have pro- 

J A paper read before the Sociology Club of the University of Chicago, May 
15, 1906. 


duced the building alone. It is because he is the only man in the 
whole collection who could think the building before it was pro- 
duced, and think it in such a way that his thoughts could show 
other men how to produce it. Other men can think their particular 
jobs, and fit them into the jobs of other crafts. The architect 
is the only one who can plan the whole system of jobs in advance, 
and mark out jobs for all the different kinds of workers who are 
needed to complete the building. 

Now, I distinctly do not intend to compare the sociologist 
to the architect, and other types of social scientists to the job 
workers on the building, in any sense that would imply that the 
sociologist has any function in the way of managing the work of 
other scientists. The point of the comparison is simply this: 
Neither the stone mason, nor the structural iron-worker, nor the 
carpenter, nor the plumber, nor the steam-fitter, nor the roofer, 
nor the decorator is an architect, merely by virtue of doing work 
that goes' into the completed structure of a house. Each is what 
he is, but he isn't an architect. In the same way, neither of the 
thousand and one types of people who work, and work profitably, 
upon theoretical or practical social problems are necessarily 
sociologists. To my mind, it all depends, not on the fact that they 
are dealing with society, but on the way in which they deal with 

It may be profitable to draw still another primary distinction, 
namely, between essential divisions of labor in the work of get- 
ting or applying knowledge, and the academic division of labor 
which is represented by such conventional names as History, 
Political Economy, Political Science, Anthropology, Psychology, 
Ethics, Sociology, etc., etc. It is one thing to' assign particular 
pieces of work to departments and instructors in a university, and 
quite another thing to make out the real reason, or lack of reason, 
that is underneath this conventional distribution. I am not now 
talking about the practical boundary lines between different 
departments in this or any other university; for there is no< ques- 
tion at issue in that connection. For practical purposes the boun- 
daries are as clearly defined, and as well understood as though 
they were marked by stone monuments set by surveyors. 


On the other hand, these mechanical divisions of labor in a 
university are veritable travesties of scientific landmarks. Not a 
man of us can ask a question about any actual human problem, 
without rough-riding through the preserve of every one of these 
academic divisions of labor before he gets a final answer. 
Academic divisions of labor are pedagogical conveniences, but, 
to a very considerable extent, they are scientific inconveniences 
and impertinences. 

For instance, suppose we are asking what effect different 
tenures of land have on the efficiency of cultivation. The histo- 
rian, or the moralist, or the political scientist, or the ethnologist, 
or the psychologist, or the sociologist might start this question, 
and the answer might be of great interest from the view-point of 
either. To get an answer to the question, we should have to 
apply technique and information classed within the mysteries of 
each of these specialists. We should have to ransack racial 
records, and interpret social customs, and political systems, and 
ecclesiastical practices, and industrial organizations, and legal and 
moral codes. We should have to know how to separate evidence 
from irrelevance in each of these fields. We should have to learn 
how to distinguish causes from effects in each of these relations, 
so as to be sure we had not mistaken the one for the other ; and we 
should have to learn how causes of the different kinds modify and 
neutralize or energize each other, so as not to' imagine that we 
have in view results of a form of land-tenure, when they may be 
merely coincidences, connected with the tenure of land merely by 
the post quod propter quod assumption. 

Now, this instance illustrates the situation in every academic 
department of the social sciences, whenever they touch a real 
human question. They simply cannot keep within the boundaries 
which they have drawn for their preserve. If they are dealing 
with mere hypothetical abstractions from the real social process, 
or if they are content merely to follow out certain phases of fact 
and stop there, the particular emphasis that they observe prevents 
them from appearing to encroach upon other specialists. It is 
really in this sense, and to this extent, that the agreement and 
harmony, of which I spoke a moment ago, exists between 


academic departments. They are all exercising themselves chiefly 
on rudimentary technique, and are not under the necessity of 
carrying that technique very far in application to the real problems 
of life. If they were, it would be impossible to maintain the 
academic traditions of separateness. The different kinds of 
scientific workers would necessarily fall into hierarchies, like the 
laborers employed in building a house; each in the place deter- 
mined by the actual relation of his work to the whole process of 

In order, therefore, to understand the elementary conceptions' 
of the sociological argument, we must be able to see through the 
whole petty claptrap of academic divisions. A real scientific 
process ignores it as thoroughly as a lawyer pleading his cause 
selects his words and his constructions for the work they will do, 
regardless of the classifications of philologists and grammarians. 

My argument, then, is that there is one great overtowering 
task for the human mind. That task is to find out the meaning 
of human experience. This is the inclusive, architectonic task of 
analysis, and then of synthesis., as we transpose knowledge into 
purpose. Now, I would divide thinkers primarily into those who 
have become conscious' of this task, and have tackled it, from 
some point or other, and those who have not. The have-nots 
outnumber the haves some millions to one. By whatever name 
they call themselves, the majority are not sociologists. Whether 
they adopt the name "sociologist" or not, the minority are all in 
the same boat. They must inevitably, sooner or later, recognize 
their common lot, because they are prying into the same reality, 
and that reality must at last schoolmaster them all into one state 
of knowledge. The sociologists', as I use the term, are the people 
who have interpreted the omens to this extent and are deliberately 
trying to make out the forms and laws of relationship in human 
association in recognition of which we must at last organize all 
real knowledge of human affairs. 

Probably, even to those who have studied sociology most, 
what I have said so far has' a very abstract and empty sound. I 
will try to make it a little more definite. 

So far as we are able to make out the contents of the savage 


mind, whether in a primeval forest or in a modern city, it amounts 
to about this : Life presents itself as a daily and hourly recurring 
problem of ways and means to satisfy a very small collection of 
very primary wants. Life is a round of providing food and cov- 
ering and shelter, and defense against nature and beasts and 
hostile men. There is no further outlook. The whole affair is 
summed up in a long-drawn-out striving to escape as many pangs 
of pain as possible, and to achieve as many as possible grunts of 
comfort. The people on this plane of life acquire a certain tech- 
nique of food-getting, and house-building, and enemy-hunting, 
but beyond this they are conscious of no problem. 

At the other extreme in principle are the people who get out- 
side of themselves in thought, and encounter the question : What 
does this life of ours mean? What is it all about? Why live 
at all ? Is there anything to wish for and hope for and work for, 
beyond food and clothes and shelter and comfort? If so, how 
shall we locate it and master it ? We may typify this sort of peo- 
ple by the author of the book of Job, wrestling with the eternal 
problem of good and evil. 

After men have once reached powers of reflection and abstrac- 
tion that result in presenting this question, there is no salvation 
for them but in answering it. There is always the savage stratum, 
in every civilization, that has thought only for the elementary 
concrete facts nearest to the minimum problem of physical neces- 
sities. On the other hand, there is always a contingent of at least 
incipient philosophers. They are asking : What do these concrete 
experiences mean ? All the attempted sciences of human life that 
ever have existed or ever will exist are nearer or remoter conse- 
quences' of the disposition to ask this question. The actual form 
and content of the social sciences, as we find them at any moment, 
are reflections of the limitations within which the thinkers have 
been willing to confine themselves in their search for answer to 
the question. 

From the beginning of abstract thinking, we have had, at the 
one extreme, philosophers, of whom Plato may be taken as the 
type. To them, as to the rabble, life as it presents itself in actual 
concrete experience is a great big mix. They find no clue in con- 


crete circumstances' that would show a place for everything, and 
help to put everything in its place. The confusion is hopeless. 
Such thinkers solve the puzzle by giving it up and betaking them- 
selves to' something easier. They withdraw themselves from the 
tangle of the real world and take refuge in a realm which their 
own minds construct. Apart and afar from literal life, they posit 
an idea. In their thoughts this idea conceives and brings forth a 
universe. Thereupon their task is to make this conceptual 
universe bring order out of chaos in explaining the actual universe. 

As I shall acknowledge presently, there always' has been, and 
there is always likely to be, a certain value in this largely unreal 
method of thinking. Speculative philosophy is one type of effort 
to answer the central human question : What does life mean? 
We need not try to deal out credit or discredit to such philosophy 
for its proportion of merit for search after truth. It is enough 
for the moment to place it, as one of the attempts to> answer the 
main question. 

At the other extreme there have always been men who, con- 
sciously or unconsciously, approached the same question from the 
opposite point of view. They have become conscious of a certain 
range of human interests, while they have ignored other inter- 
ests, and they have tried to think systematically about those 
interests on which they center their attention. Then they have 
virtually — whether deliberately or not — tried to explain the mean- 
ing of life by means of their knowledge of these particular 

For instance, we may explain the growth of the so-called 
science of history in this way. For ordinary men it is a prodi- 
gious feat of the constructive imagination to take notice that the 
world is full of: stronger men lording it over weaker men. Certain 
high-power tinctures of ordinariness, our Homers and our 
Virgils, have reflected vulgar interests, and rudimentary 
stages of generalization, by dressing up in fanciful form real or 
mythical exploits of heroes divine or human. They sing of "arms 
and a man." In these lyrics or epics, or merely in plain folk-lore, 
naive versions of the meaning of life have been more or less 


But more sober, critical, literal attention to life is paid by 
another type of men. So far as life appeals to them seriously, 
it presents itself as at bottom the government of one man by 
another. The fact of great systems of sovereignty occupies the 
center of their field of view. The things chiefly worth remember- 
ing and reflecting on are the fortunes of men who conquer and 
wield political power, and thus control the destinies of all the rest 
of men. From this point of view Herodotus and Thucydides 
submit their answer as to the meaning of life. They set a model 
which is adopted, with variations, by the class of thinkers that 
we call historians down to the present hour. With a rough 
approximation to truth, we may say that all these men attempt to 
interpret life to us as an affair to be understood fundamentally as 
a function of government and sovereignty. 

Of course, there has never been utter separation between the 
speculative and the positive method of approach, in the case of 
a single individual. Plato could not abstract himself utterly from 
the real world; while Herodotus and his successors have always 
seen the facts of history through the medium of a more or less 
definite philosophy. I am speaking now of types, without 
attempting to discuss the mixture of types in specific cases. I 
must also qualify the statement that the followers of Herodotus 
and Thucydides pictured life as an affair of government and of 
sovereignty. One species of their followers has held to that view. 
All the rest have more or less departed from it — for instance, the 
religious historians. 

Two general propositions, therefore, are in point with refer- 
ence to the historians : First, the one common element in their pur- 
poses is search for some part of the meaning of life. Second, the 
one common article in their methodological faith is that the 
desired meaning is to be discovered by making out some continuity 
of human experiences. 

A moment ago I used the phrase "the so-called science of 
history." Just now it is the fad to be facetious at the expense of 
sociology, because the sociologists cannot agree upon an exact 
description of their field. But within three years I have heard 
the confession in open meetings of the American Historical Asso- 


ciation, the American Economic Association, and the American 
Social Science Association for each of these sciences in turn, that 
it would be useless to spend time trying to make an acceptable 
definition of the division of knowledge in each case represented. 
Sociology is no more unfortunate in this respect than the older 
divisions of social science. They have simply existed long enough 
for their vagueness to have been accepted as inevitable. In point 
of fact, the supposed objectivity and unity of either of these 
sciences will never be made out, until it is a phase of that very 
unity which the sociologists are diligently laboring to discover. 

I am not saying that the sociologists alone are scientific in their 
methods. On the contrary, the historians, the economists, and 
the political scientists are far in advance of the sociologists in 
perfecting their scientific technique. What I am urging is that 
the implicit task upon which we are all working is discovery of the 
meaning of human experience, and that the primary significance 
of the sociologists is in this message to their fellow-scientists: 
"Your technique cannot save you. It may be a millstone around 
the neck of your science. We shall never learn the meaning of 
human experience until we learn the meaning of all human experi- 
ence. You cut human experience into convenient little abstract 
sections and thin layers, and when you have applied the micro- 
scope to them, you think you have found the secret of life. 
Human experience is not disconnected microscopic sections. It 
is a cosmos. Your abstractions will be abortions until you learn 
the meaning of them in their relations' to the living whole." If 
we stop to take an inventory, it turns out that we have "histories" 
of everything from civilization to coinage. We have "histories" 
of church doctrine, and "histories" of military tactics. We have 
"histories" of language, and of painting, and of prostitution. We 
have "histories" of the idea of the devil, and "histories" of hymn- 
ology, and "histories" of the conflict of science and religion. We 
have constitutional histories', and political histories, and industrial 
histories, and military histories, and social histories. Between 
historians of any two of these groups of subject-matter it is pos- 
sible, and even probable, that we should find nothing more in com- 
mon than the two traits already named : i. e., both are trying to 


make out some part of the meaning of life, and both are trying to 
do their share toward finding that meaning by running down a 
selected series of continuities. 

As' a sociologist I put in my word that this is all well so far 
as it goes, but a world full of workers merely from this point of 
view would never succeed in making out the meaning of human 
experience. The more we unravel these distinct strands of human 
continuity, and follow them back till they are lost in the mass of 
undifferentiated experience, the more evident and importunate 
becomes the demand for explanation of the strands by knowledge 
of the web of experience from which they have been disentangled. 
In other words, when we have divided life up into an indefinite 
number of series of continuities, we have not found out the 
meaning of life. We have merely made the enigma of life 
more perplexing. We thereby only succeed in giving ourselves 
more convincing evidence of the real task — viz., to make out what 
all these series mean, not merely in their detached sequences, but 
in their actual working combinations. 

This brings us' to the cardinal principle that the meaning of 
experience is not to be discovered in continuity alone, in the his- 
torical sense. Social causation is always contemporary as' well 
as consecutive. 

Not with conscious attention to this principle, but with 
instinctive reference to it, political science and political economy 
have come into existence. We may speak of Macchiavelli as the 
father of political science. Of course, he drew his observations 
largely from history ; but he reflected at least as directly upon his' 
first-hand contact with prince-craft. The thing worth knowing 
being how to govern a state, Macchiavelli set himself the task of 
putting in order what he knew about the way in which this 
was done by successful princeSi A social science of utility was 
thus founded. Political science unmixed with any other science, 
and kept as a pure abstraction, according to the scheme of defini- 
tion-makers, would be restricted simply to this problem, viz : A 
certain system of political results being assumed as desirable, what 
maxims of conduct is it necessary for rulers to observe in order to 
achieve those results? The fact that nobody is content to confine 


himself to that form of question proves that people acute enough 
to deal with problems of government understandingly are at any 
rate partially conscious that an inquiry so limited would always 
be subordinate to a more fundamental inquiry, viz : What political 
results are desirable? Here again we raise a question which no 
academically bounded science can answer even in algebraic form. 
The answer is a function of the complete life of man. We must 
have a tentative solution of the main problem of the essential 
meaning of life, in order to furnish the answer. A political 
science that is moving along in harmony with the whole pro- 
gressive gain of out-look and in-look about the meaning of life, 
must consequently be, not a permanent abstraction, but sooner or 
later a working partner with all the other types of investigation 
that are together closing in on the total meaning of life. 

In other words, if our range of reflective interest were bounded 
by political utility, we should start with a more or less distinctly 
defined conception of what we meant by political utility. That 
conception would have to be either a hard and fast notion, fixed 
for all time, subject to no change; or it would have to be a pro- 
visional conception, subject to modification, in consequence of 
changes in our judgments of life- values. Assuming the former 
alternative, let us suppose that political utility, as we understand 
it, is represented by the utmost absence of friction in operating 
the present constitution and laws of the United States. But one 
of the three co-ordinate branches of this' governmental system is 
the legislative. Not to speak of the other ways in which our con- 
stitution and laws actually change their content from time to time, 
several thousand bills are introduced at every session of our 
national legislature alone. These bills propose amendment or 
repeal of old laws, and enactment of new ones. Every bill that 
becomes a law may alter the standard of political utility that pre- 
viously prevailed. Here is then our dilemma as political scientists. 
Either we must be stand-patters, and demand that legislation shall 
be reduced to an empty form, that it shall forever reiterate 
what exists today; or our political science must have a way of 
going outside of itself, and of finding means of deciding, first, 
whether a proposed law actually does involve a modified standard 


of political utility ; and if it does, then our political science needs 
an objective standard by which to decide whether the innovation 
in types of political utility is desirable or undesirable. To put it 
in another way, we must either commit ourselves' unalterably to 
the position that there is nothing in the world greater or better or 
more desirable than our present machinery of government, that 
this system bounds our moral world ; or we must concede that our 
theory, our science, of this system of government is' merely a 
subordinate term in the equation of life, and that it has always 
to be held subject to modification by the values of other terms 
in the same equation. 

For instance, suppose the proposition is a constitutional 
amendment providing for election of senators by direct ballot, 
instead of by legislatures. Such a proposition at once challenges 
the authority of that standard of political utility upon which, for 
the sake of argument, we are supposing our political science to be 
based. It introduces a modified conception of the kind of society 
we wish our government to secure. By what means shall we 
decide that the kind of society which would be promoted by popu- 
larly elected senators would be better or worse than the kind of 
society of which our present Senate is' a factor? The type of 
political science which we are now discussing hypothetically 
would have prejudiced the case in one way. It would have 
assumed our present political system as a finality. By this very 
assumption it would make itself helpless for the present purpose. 
That is', it would have begged the question of human desirability. 
On the other hand, whoever proposes to change the present 
political order of the United States assumes a burden of proof 
that something else is better. If it is not a final order, why is it 
not? Whatever the proposed answer, it would have to rest on 
some principle broad enough and deep enough to' serve as a com- 
mon measure of existing standards of political utility, and of each 
and every other standard that might be brought into competition 
with it. 

Before passing to the other alternative in political science, I 
should say that no such freak is known to exist as' the political 
scientist who would deliberately and frankly support the concep- 


tion of political science just illustrated. No political scientist has 
ever been heard of who did not, as a matter of fact, entertain some 
notion of a meaning of life in excess of political utility in the 
strict sense. The consequence is that no political science has ever 
been written in which the critical eye could not read between the 
lines more or less emphatic implications that the political science 
must after all, at last, be a function of a more inclusive science. 
Political utility is only a segment of human utility. This is not a 
theory of academic partisanship, it is not a professional bias that 
creates imaginary relations. It is a fact, which no bias can suc- 
cessfully ignore. This being the case, scientific progress, so far 
as political science is concerned, depends upon the degree in which 
actual political scientists have reconciled their specialization with 
this larger reality. 

We may now go back to the other possible alternative in pre- 
sumptions of political utility, viz., that political utility is a 
relative term, varying from age to age, from country to country, 
from race to race, in accordance with an indefinite number of cir- 
cumstances. The moment we take this view we have committed 
our political science to interminable cycles of struggle with two 
questions instead of one; viz. : first, by what ways and means shall 
a given type of political utility be achieved ; i. e., the question of 
political science in the narrowest sense ; and, second, by what token 
shall we know whether a given type of political utility is prefer- 
able to another; for instance, a system in which the electoral 
franchise is restricted to men, versus one in which it is shared 
on equal terms by men and women ? 

It would be easy to show that, whatever steps we consent to 
take toward answering this latter type of question, these steps 
leave us no stopping-place till we have arrived at some result 
which we are willing to accept in answer to the fundamental ques- 
tion: What is the whole meaning of life? That is', we either 
expand our so-called political science into an all-round life- 
philosophy, or we acknowledge that it is merely fractional in its 
character, and that it must be supplemented by divisions of science 
which explore other segments of life-values. If we take the 
former of these alternatives, we virtually make the scope of 


political scence identical with that which I claim for sociology. 
I have no interest in quarreling about names, with men who take 
this view, and prefer to call it political science. If they are doing 
all that man can do to push inquiry into the whole meaning of 
life, God bless them, whatever identification tag they wear ! My 
interest as a sociologist is in pointing out that men who organize 
their work from this point of view are on the same quest with the 
sociologists'. Our business is to understand each other as soon 
as possible, and to help each other all we can in so perfecting our 
methods that we may make our utmost contribution to knowledge. 
Many German political scientists apparently mean just what I do 
by sociology when they use the term Staatswissenschaft. Literally 
translated, the term would be the "science of the state," or "civic 
science," or simply "civics." Interpreted by what some of them 
actually put into the term, it leaves' out of the schedule nothing 
that occurs in human experience. The same is much more evi- 
dently true of another term which is used in much the same way 
by writers who start rather from the economic point of view, viz., 
Socialwissenschaft. 2 There is nothing in a mere name, one way 
or the other. The chief strategic method for which the sociologists 
are fighting is interpretation of the parts of life by the whole of 
life. Whoever is not against us' in this fight is on our side. The 
main contention is that no single connected series of human expe- 
riences can explain itself, because each series' is a function of all 
the other human experiences that have occurred antecedent to it, 
and that are contemporary with it. Neither can any single cross- 
section of human experience explain itself, because it is merely a 
passing phase of the myriad series of causes and effects which are 
making the life of one moment and unmaking it in the next. The 
problem of human knowledge is an endless task, first, of analyzing 
all the experiences of life into their elements; second, o>f recon- 
structing these elements in such a way that they will interpret 
each other to our understanding, as they do not to our direct 
observation. The sociologists are attorneys for this latter share 
of the process of knowledge. 

In dealing with the relation of sociology to political economy, 

'Dietzel, Theoretische Socialokonomik , p. 4. 


what has already been said in connection with political science has 
to be repeated with changed terms. 

In brief the situation is this : Adam Smith in effect defined 
the boundaries of a purely technical inquiry when he proposed 
the problem that may be expressed in this way : What laws must 
a nation observe in order to amass the largest quantity of wealth? 
Thereupon political economy became primarily an inquiry into the 
conditions which govern increase of national wealth. A logician 
from 1 Mars, unless Mars is a sophists' colony, would have no dif- 
ficulty whatever in placing such an inquiry where it belongs in 
the scale of knowledge. He would see at once that wealth is an 
incident in human life, and that the ratio of the importance of this 
incident varies from time to time, from place to place, from 
civilization to civilization. He would see that the question, How 
shall we increase wealth? is always subordinate to the question, 
Why should we increase wealth ? and to the less general question, 
What ratio do* the reasons for increasing wealth bear, under exist- 
ing circumstances, to the reasons for providing the other inciden- 
tals of life? He would, accordingly, see that, on its merits as a 
section of science, not according to its capacity tot stir up popular 
interest, political economy subtends relatively a very small angle 
of knowledge. It deals with material things and the means 
of obtaining them. But life, whether of the individual or of a 
nation, does not and cannot consist of the things that are pos- 
sessed. It cannot do without a modicum, of them, and it cannot 
advance from range to range of achievement without controlling 
corresponding quantities of them. But things' are merely pre- 
liminaries to life. They bear the same relation to life that dealing 
out rations to an army bears to fighting battles. The commissary 
department is necessary, but supplies are not strategy. We are 
simply generalizing that proposition when we repeat that wealth is 
not life. We can no more solve the problem of life by solving 
the problem of wealth than we can solve military problems by 
analyzing foods'. Life consists not in the accumulation of things, 
but in the experiences of persons. We are living in a stage of the 
development of western civilization in which the item of wealth 
occupies a far larger share of attention than its place in the scale of 


human values justifies. For this reason, during the better part of 
a hundred years, political economy has been able to occupy a 
scientific prominence ridiculously out of proportion to its logical 
significance in the totality of human knowledge. Economists 
have gravely assumed that their economic knowledge qualifies 
them to settle all sorts of questions of public policy. This is as 
though pure mathematicians should claim the right to dictate 
the settlement of the financial and engineering and architectural 
problems involved in rebuilding San Francisco. The most con- 
venient case in point is General Walker's volume, Political Econ- 
omy, published in "The American Science Series for Schools and 
Colleges," in 1883. The opening paragraph reads' as follows : 

Political Economy, or Economics, is the name of that body of knowledge 
which relates to wealth. Political Economy has to do with no other subject 
whatever, than wealth. Especially should the student take care not to 
allow any purely political, ethical, or social considerations to influence him in 
his investigations. All that he has, as an economist, to do is to find out how 
wealth is produced, exchanged, distributed, and consumed. It will remain for 
the social philosopher, the moralist, or the statesman, to decide how far the 
pursuit of wealth, according to the laws discovered by the economist, should 
be subordinated to other, let us say higher, considerations. The more strictly 
the several branches of inquiry are kept apart, the better it will be for each 
and for all. 8 

If the proof of the pie were not in the eating, I should have no 
comments to pass on this paragraph, nor on the type of economic 
presumption that it represents. The amusing way in which the 
program works out in practice, however, is the sufficient reason 
for using this writer to point my moral. In the last 130 of the 
476 pages in this book on Political Economy, as just defined, Gen- 
eral Walker applies his economic principles to questions of public 
policy covering a range of social problems which can no more 
be solved by economics alone than problems' in the treatment of 
diseases can be solved by anatomy. 

The absurdity of the non-sequitur element in this situation is 
mitigated, but not removed, by the remark with which General 
Walker concludes the section just quoted, viz : 

The economist may also be a social philosopher, a moralist, or a states- 

3 P. 1. Italics mine. 


man, just as the mathematician may also be a chemist or a mechanician; but 
not, on that account, should the several subjects of inquiry be confounded. 

From the standpoint of the pure logician standing outside of all 
the social sciences, and criticising them simply and solely as 
samples of reasoning, the clue to the conflict of claims between 
economics and sociology is briefly this: The economists have 
proceeded upon the assumption that being an economist one 
thereby is at once social philosopher, moralist, and statesman to 
the extent necessary to furnish an authoritative interpretation of 
life. The sociologists maintain, on the contrary, that this is no 
more necessarily the case than that the mathematician is ipsa facto 
a chemist or a mechanician. 

While I was serving a seven years' apprenticeship as a teacher 
of history and economies', with no thought of another vocation, 
and while I was trying to use General Walker's book as a basis for 
instruction in economies', the anomaly of the whole methodological 
presumption upon which current valuations of economic theory 
rested compelled me to calculate my bearings for myself. I would 
utter not a word or hint in disparagement of economic science. 
My affair is' to make clear the necessary subordination of econ- 
omic science in the complex process of interpreting life as a 
whole. Some of the men of largest mold that have dealt with 
social questions during the past century have been economists', 
and the economic basis of their opinions has doubtless' been as 
secure as any portion of the reasoning upon which our policies 
have been founded. More than this, the public questions which 
have been to* the fore during the past century have been of a 
nature which made it both safe and wise, in a large proportion 
of cases, to allow the economic factors to be decisive for working 
purposes; but this does nothing whatever to remove the fact 
that the whole problem of economics, even if it could be solved to 
stay solved for all times and places, is merely a fragment of the 
problem of life. With reference to the whole problem of the 
meaning of life, and the largest view of the conduct of life, we 
are merely in the kindergarten stage of" social intelligence. Judged 
by the rules' of exact science, our logical wrestlings with the 
problems of life so far are chiefly according to the easy-going rule 


of catch-as-catch-can. If our problem is enlarged in scope from 
that of material gain, to that of the meaning of life in its whole 
intent and extent, the economic problem falls into a perspective 
which gives it very much the same relation to the life-problem at 
large that a supply of paint and a few yards of canvas would bear 
to the production of another Raphael. 

Behind and around the economic problem are such problems 
as these: What other interests besides wealth occupy human 
life? What are the relations of these interests to each other? 
Are these relations constant or variable, and, if the latter, what 
are the principles and laws of variation? What ratios of value 
have these interests to each other in the economy of human life? 
By what means may we discover whether our valuations of these 
different interests are valid? What laws must be observed in 
getting satisfaction of these different interests ? By what evidence 
shall we decide whether we are devoting proportionate or dispro- 
portionate attention to the different kinds of normal human 
interests? What laws must be observed in harmonizing human 
interests ? 

The great joke of nineteenth-century social science has been 
its grave and confident assumption that expert skill was required 
in solving the problems of wealth, and government, but that 
untutored common-sense is the only outfit necessary in dealing 
with any possible surplus problems for which history and 
economics and political science did not amply provide. Very 
slight logical analysis beneath the surface of this naivete reveals 
that a new series of sciences is not merely possible but necessary 
before we can penetrate very far into the literal meaning of life. 

Although his disciples have pretty generally ignored it, there 
is good reason to believe that Adam Smith quite distinctly per- 
ceived that substantially the hierarchy of questions just recited 
surrounds and subordinates the economic question. He probably 
had no doubt that a science which would securely answer all these 
questions was necessary in order to give economic science its final 
place in our system' of knowledege. At present there are two pos- 
sible logical alternatives for political economy: first, frankly to 
confine itself to the role of a technology of wealth-getting ; second. 


to enter into loyal correlation with an inclusive life-philosophy. 
Even if the former alternative were adopted, political economy 
would have to be revised whenever economic institutions came to 
be operated in accordance with modified social valuations. The 
questions that I have just proposed open up, therefore, some of 
those vistas of lange Gedankenreihen, with which Sombart is tell- 
ing his economic colleagues they must learn to correlate their 
specific material, if they are to save economic theory from 

In all that I have said, I have gone far toward showing why 
the miscellany of so-called sociological pursuits that Professor 
Vincent told about last week not only may exist, but in the nature 
of the case must exist. Sociology is primarily a synthetic, co- 
ordinating conception. So long as we think of reality as cut up 
into detachable parts, which may be treated as entities in and of 
themselves, it is possible and natural to think of sciences of those 
parts of knowledge, clearly distinct from each other, and 
accurately definable in terms of the subject-matter which they 
monopolize. The moment we propose the question, What is the 
meaning of life ? we imply an impeachment of the conception that 
the truth can be told about life if we divide it off into isolated 
unities. Our presumption is that these divisions of partial 
convenience are at last not traits of separation, but imaginary 
lines drawn by our reflection through a reality every phase of 
which must be known through its' relations with the whole. 
Human life is an affair of individuals of like passions with each 
other, with essentially identical dependence upon the physical 
environment, with the ground-plan of their make-up substantially 
of one type, but in the course of generation after generation 
passing into individual and group variations which confuse their 
meaning in the whole life-process. Some individuals and groups 
come to 1 be at an advantage, others at a disadvantage, physi- 
ologically or psychologically or institutionally, in adjusting them- 
selves to the conditions of life. Each of these phases of human 
experience, whether past or present, has its quota of value in 
making out the meaning of life as a whole. To my mind, the 
distinctive function of sociology, as a division of labor in social 


science, is the mapping of the whole scope of human experience as 
a functional process, in which the elements of human experience 
get their meaning. I recognize, however, the purely formal char- 
acter of this division of scientific work. Not many people should 
engage in it. Possibly its future will be something like that of 
general biology, which is now merely a name for a synthetic view 
of the whole system of cause and effect that operates in vital 
phenomena; while all the concrete biological science is investiga- 
tion of particular relations in which these laws appear. In order 
that sociology may get what Professor Ross calls "body," it must 
get out of the mere algebraic and geometric formulation of life- 
relations, and find the reality in actual human experiences. 
Referring now to a remark at the beginning, I would accordingly, 
for broadly scientific purposes, not at all to justify the division of 
academic departments, apply the term "sociological" to any divi- 
sion of labor, larger or smaller, which is actually trying to find 
out the meaning of a phase or fragment of life, historical, con- 
temporary or constructive, in Us relation with the whole life- 
process. In this sense, all historians, all ethnologists, all political 
scientists, all economists, all social ameliorators, are sociologists, 
in the degree in which they consent to hold their part of scientific 
or social work as perpetually incidental and subordinate to advan- 
cing knowledge of the whole human process. We can learn of this 
process precisely, only by studying the processes that compose it. 
These processes range from the baby getting acquainted with his 
toes, to collisions of civilizations. Whoever is studying any part 
of any one of these processes, whether from the historical, the 
analytic, or the constructive point of view, provided he ivorks 
with the presumption that the process he is studying somehow 
gets its full and final meaning from its connections with all the 
rest of human experience, is doing all that the sociologist asks. 
He has logically correlated his work with the system of advancing 
knowledge which will grow into the ultimate social science. 

Perhaps I have blundered in leaving myself SO' little room to 
speak of the relation of sociology to> psychology. This is not 
because the relation is obscure or unimportant, but because in 
present sociology the function of psychology is regarded as too 


evident for discussion. We take it for granted that the last 
answer which the human mind can ever give to the inclusive ques- 
tion, What is the meaning of life? will be, first, a version of 
objective experience in terms of the subjective experience which 
psychology explains ; and, second, a valuation of each phase of the 
process in terms of the human personality in which the subjective 
and the objective experiences meet. Whether psychologist or 
sociologist will be senior partner in the business of reaching this 
rendering of life is a question that gives me the least possible con- 
cern. It is enough to know that, from this on, psychologists and 
sociologists will have so much in common that neither can afford 
to leave the other very long out of sight. 

I said in the beginning that, even in our day of positive 
science, we cannot refuse to credit a certain value to speculative 
forms of philosophy. Every methodologist knows that knowl- 
edge does not and cannot progress in the line of strict induction 
alone. We put a few facts together in the form of a generaliza- 
tion. Then we use that generalization as a sort of staging to 
stand on while we are scanning a wider horizon for more facts. 
When we have enough new facts in our possession we construct 
another outlook tower of this material and proceed to explore 
further. Presently some thinkers are left standing upon the 
watch-towers long since abandoned by others who are afield for 
more facts. The two kinds of searchers pass signals back and 
forth, and are thus of mutual assistance. Social science is no 
more and no less dependent upon this interchange of method than 
physical science. We may call in Tennyson's hard-worked "flower 
in the crannied wall" to help us do justice to these reciprocating 
phases of the progress of knowledge : 

Flower in the crannied wall, 
I pluck you out of the crannies : — 
Hold you here, root and all, in my hand, 
Little flower — but if I could understand 
What you are, root and all, and all in all, 
I should know what God and man is. 

True, but there is another attitude of our minds, and one 
that we have to adopt provisionally every now and then, to escape 


losing our bearings in uncharted confusion. We say: "If I 
knew, all in all, what God is, and what man is, then I should know, 
all in all, what the flower in the crannied wall is." 

Social science, like all other science, has been, on the whole, 
an irregularly ascending spiral from nescience to knowledge. To 
speak after the manner of the mathematicians, it has been a func- 
tion of alternate inspections of flowers in crannied walls, and 
inferences from men and gods largely of our own construction. 
We are approaching something like reasoned and reasonable 
reciprocity between the particularizing and the generalizing search 
for real knowledge. How large a part we shall require of the 
hundred million years which Professor Chamberlin allows us for 
tenancy of our planet, in order to make social science as exact 
as possible, is a question that worries me much less than the 
immediate issue: Shall we apply all the logic that we ought 
to know, to our part in advancing social knowledge? 

There is work enough for every type of competent laborer 
in the co-operative task of discovering the meaning of life.